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The Iron Dragon’s Mother: Surreal

The Iron Dragon’s Mother by Michael Swanwick

It’s been eleven years since I read Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, a novel that, while recognizing Swanwick’s brilliance, I did not enjoy. Some phrases from my review include “random, chaotic, and senseless,” “weird, disjointed, obtuse, inaccessibly bizarre,” and “chaotic nihilism.” But mostly I despised the protagonist, Jane, who was “a remorseless foul-mouthed thief, drug-user, slut, and murderer.”

So, at first I expected not to enjoy The Iron Dragon’s Mother (2019), which is set in the same universe, but when I learned that it’s a stand-alon... Read More

Hellboy (Vol. 3): The Chained Coffin and Others: Building the Hellboy mythos

Hellboy (vol 3): The Chained Coffin and Others by Mike Mignola (writer and artist),

Hellboy (vol 3): The Chained Coffin and Others does not continue the main storyline of Hellboy started in volumes one and two; instead, Mignola collects a handful of Hellboy tales in this trade edition:

In “The Coffin,” Hellboy makes his appearance in Ireland in 1959 as a mother cries over her baby, who she is convinced is a changeling. “Get to the crossroads by the strike of middle-night under the corpse tree,” screams the changeling-baby when Hellboy tortures it with iron. And Hellboy is off to the crossroads to make a deal with three creatures. Next thing you know, he is on a quest with a dead man hanging off his back. Only if he is successful will he be able to return the baby to her mother. “The Coffin” is one of Mignola’s best short stories.

Hellboy makes an appearance in Ireland again, ... Read More

The Short Victorious War: Honor feels more human

The Short Victorious War by David Weber

So far I have not much cared for David Weber’s extremely popular HONOR HARRINGTON series. In the first two books, On Basilisk Station and The Honor of the Queen, I thought there was way too much exposition and that Honor was cold and distant and too much of a Mary Sue (here are my reviews). It’s hard for me to enjoy a series if I don’t like its protagonist unless it has some other excellent qualities that can make up for that. I decided to give Honor Harrington another try, though, because Marion has recently written a review for the fourth book, Field of Dishonor, and I already had the third book, The Short Victorious War, in my Audible libr... Read More

Steal the Dragon: Fun, light fantasy with some disturbing subtexts

Steal the Dragon by Patricia Briggs

In Steal the Dragon, Patricia Briggs creates yet another strong, believable female protagonist in Rialla, a horse trainer and ex-slave from the country of Darran, who now lives in Sianim. (In fact, Steal the Dragon is technically part of a series called SIANIM, but as the books in the series do not share a lot of plot or characters, merely a setting, you don’t have to read the others to enjoy it.) She learns from the spymaster of Sianim that an influential lord in Darran would like to outlaw slavery, but that his life is in danger. Against her better judgment, she travels back to her home country in the guise of a slave to Laeth, her trusted friend and the brother to the lord of Darran. They hope to uncover the threat to Laeth’s brother and ensure ... Read More

Messenger: Whaaaa?

Messenger by Lois Lowry

The book flap describes Messenger by Lois Lowry thusly: “For the past six years, Matty has lived in Village and flourished under the guidance of Seer, a blind man, known for his special sight. Village was a place that welcomed newcomers, but something sinister has seeped into Village and the people have voted to close it to outsiders. Matty has been invaluable as a messenger. Now he must make one last journey through the treacherous forest with his only weapon, a power he unexpectedly discovers within himself.” Do you want to know why I used the book flap description for the first time ever? Because I don’t trust myself not to get all snarktastic just describing the book.

Warning: Review is going to be snarktastic.

Okay, I freely admit I am getting more and more irritated by this series as I go further along. You want to know why? Because it ma... Read More

All Tomorrow’s Parties: Fascinating post-post-industrial setting

All Tomorrow’s Parties by William Gibson

When he was a child in an orphanage in Florida, Colin Laney participated in a research study in which he was given a drug that allows him to visualize and extract meaningful information from endless streams of internet data. Laney now has the ability to see nodal points in history — times and places where important changes are occurring. Even though he doesn’t recognize what the change will be, he “sees the shapes from which history emerges.”

Laney is now an adult who’s sick and living in a cardboard box in a Tokyo subway station. He’s convinced that something big is about to happen in San Francisco. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen, but he knows it will change the world. Unable to get there himself, Laney hires Rydell, a California rent-a-cop, to investigate.

Rydell is pleased to be leaving his lowly night job at the Lucky Dragon convenience ... Read More

Warhost of Vastmark: Quickly becoming one of my favorites

Warhost of Vastmark by Janny Wurts

Warhost of Vastmark by Janny Wurts takes up directly where The Ships of Merior left off. The two books are definitely meant to be read back to back — together they comprise Arc 2 of the author's THE WARS OF LIGHT AND SHADOW series, and some editions actually combine both of them in one cover.

It's hard to give many details of the story without throwing in spoilers for The Ships of Merior, so I'll just say that the ongoing conflict between Arithon and Lysaer, which reached a seeming climax at the end of The Ships of Merior, actually balloons to even larger proportions and reaches a stunning high point at the end of the novel. The book contains a hilarious moment of hijinx (the "triple the... Read More

The Wizard Hunters: Never quite lives up to its promise

The Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells

The Wizard Hunters has a great opening line. Unfortunately, it never quite lives up to the promise so tantalizingly held out to us. The good news is the character we meet in that first line, Tremaine, holds up well throughout the book. In general, the characterization is one of the book's stronger points. The story premise is also a highlight, offering up an unusual meshing of cultures — one with magic and science/technology working side by side, another where technology has yet to form and magic is evil, and yet a third (the Gardier), set on invading the first two through a malevolent combination of science and magic.
The side-by-side use of modern technology and magic adds a welcome freshness to the fantasy, as does the conflict between two cultures, one employing magic and one fearing it, that seemingly must unite to face a common foe. That conflict and alliance is played o... Read More